New rating system could lower UA state report card scores
Upper Arlington Board of Education members mulled over Ohio's accountability system and expected changes that could tarnish the district's stellar state report card results during a workshop meeting on Aug. 27.
Like Ohio's other school districts, Upper Arlington is in assessment limbo after the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced the delay of the 2011-12 state report cards last week because of an investigation into improper attendance reporting by several school districts in Ohio, including Columbus City Schools.
Data-processing workers may have inflated Columbus schools' attendance figures by purposely removing large numbers of absent students from the data and sometimes withdrawing and re-enrolling students to erase poor attendance records, according to a story on June 24 in The Columbus Dispatch.
Missy Gordon, Upper Arlington's director of assessment, grants and student services, said more information about the report card delay should be available after the State Board of Education meeting on Sept. 10.
According to preliminary state report card results released early last month, Upper Arlington is on the fast track this year to earn an "excellent" rating for the 12th consecutive year, after meeting all 26 state indicators. Gordon said the district may also keep its current rating, "excellent with distinction," after value-added data are released for the final report card.
The district's performance index is 107.7 on the preliminary results, an increase from last year's 106.8.
Adequate yearly progress (AYP) scores, which measure how well student subgroups such as African-American, Limited English Proficient (LEP) and students with disabilities perform on assessment tests, also affects a district's rating.
Gordon said the district has met AYP benchmarks on the last two state report cards.
"The big things to ponder are the changes expected for the state report card next year," she said. "It still gives me pause that the vast majority of the assessment rating is based on how students perform on assessment tests for one day in May."
Earlier this year, the ODE announced it would adopt a more rigorous assessment process by the 2014-15 school year or as early as next year's report card.
The current rating system of excellent with distinction, excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency will be replaced by letter grades from A-plus to F.
"In the new accountability system, grades will be given for each component and those will then be averaged to obtain an overall grade," Gordon said.
The components would include indicators, performance index, gap closing (performance of subgroups) and value-added.
"Our expectation is to be a district that is graded 'A,' but that will be very difficult under the new system," Gordon said.
A simulation of the new report card calculations on the ODE website, at ode.state. oh.us, used Upper Arlington school data from the 2010-11 school year to show the district's excellent rating that year would change to a grade of B under the new system. The B grade was largely due to the performance of student subgroups.
Gordon said the state's new calculations would mean the performance of just a few students in the subgroups could bring down the letter grade for all students.
She said value-added would also receive a letter grade, but the only way to earn above a C would be to make more than a year's growth in one of two years, because a year's growth could earn no higher than a C grade.
She said students with perfect scores would not show a year's growth.
Another ranking may be based not only on the performance index scores but also on the percentage of school budgets spent for "classroom instructional purposes" compared to "non-classroom purposes," Gordon said.
Board Vice President Robert Arkin said the new calculations would not tell the whole story of a district's performance.
"A grade for a district under the new system would be like a rather broad brush," he said. "When you get to the details, it looks like a couple of areas where a few students do not perform would keep us from getting an A grade."
"One test should not define our district," board President Robin Comfort said. "We have so many great things going on in our classrooms. To have our scores so skewed isn't really fair."
Gordon said the district also has "a lot of teachers behind the test scores."
"We have excellent teachers in our classrooms, but they will have little control over the fact some third-graders had a bad day," she said. "I don't think any other profession is judged in this way."